Originally Written for Destination Luxury, May 2017
The River Yacht Club is well established as one of Brickell’s most desirable waterfront dining locations, renowned for its globally influenced seafood menu and stunning rooftop bar. As the most recent addition to this outstanding venue, Dashi was born into stardom and the high expectations that come with it. Much like its namesake Japanese stock, the cuisine at Dashi is heavily steeped in tradition, but delivered with a progressive approach. The emphasis is on innovative presentation with creative flavours which almost blends the familiar with the surreal.
The kitchen at Dashi is headed by Shuji Hiyakawa, a former student of Iron Chef Masuhara Morimoto. Born in Fukuoka, Japan, Hiyakawa was exposed to the culinary world from a young age in his father’s Udon noodle shop. His first culinary accolades were awarded during his tenure as Executive Sushi Chef at Morimoto in Philadelphia, and in 2010 he was awarded the prestigious title of Best Sushi in Philadelphia with OJR Restaurant Group. With his reputation by then preceding him, Hiyakawa went on to pursue a number of other high-profile positions before joining the team at Dashi where his unique style has become the signature of the menu.
Upon arriving at Dashi, your first impression is the underlying sense of calm and order, despite the buzz that is common to every busy restaurant. The décor is superbly clean and simple, giving a feeling of freshness accentuated by the wonderful amount of daylight flooding through the floor to ceiling windows. Light wooden table tops, minimalistic yet comfortable seating and the display of live plants on every table are a reflection of the concept upon which Dashi grounded; That of freshness and simplicity, allowing each individual ingredient to tell its story. The front of house staff are equally immaculately presented, engaging and practically embody the very essence of Japanese hospitality.
Taking our host’s recommendation, we opted to start with the restaurant’s namesake cocktail, a wonderful mix of Tyku coconut Nigori sake, Absolut Elyx vodka, ginger beer, lemon grass and lime juice with a splash of plum essence. The clean flavors and subtle spiciness of the ginger beer proved to be the perfect start to our experience, with the lemongrass evoking a sense of the east which suited the mood perfectly. The drinks list features a wonderful selection of Japanese Whiskies, imported beers and creative cocktails, complemented by an equally well-crafted wine list. The Sake list is particularly compelling, and includes some more intriguing varieties such as Tyku Coconut Nigori, with a semi-sweet, silky coconut taste and hints of vanilla.
Keen to try as wide a range of dishes as possible, we opted to each enjoy a main dish as well as a selection of Sushi, Sashimi and Maki, with some of Dashi’s intriguing side dishes for good measure. The Ocean Scallops were the perfect introduction, with the wonderfully fresh and plump scallops only enhanced by the delicate addition of Russian Osetra Caviar and yuzu. Hiyakawa and his team elevate the presentation of their dishes to new heights, with carefully selected crockery used to enhance the eating experience of each dish. Garnishes are kept simple yet elegant, and there is nothing to be found on the plate which does not enhances the diner’s experience in some way, be that through texture, aroma or color.
A staple on any Japanese menu, the Wagyu beef Sukiyaki was both generous and refined. The tenderness of the prime beef was matched perfectly with firm and flavorsome Tofu, hearty Shimeji mushrooms and an exquisitely poached hen’s egg, the yolk of which bound the dish together. To further emphasize this wonderful celebration of simplicity and precision, our Tomato salad was brought to life with just the right amount of wasabi oil and soy salt to cut through the rich and wholesome Sukiyaki.
Warm edamame, curried cauliflower and mushrooms roasted in a ponzu butter were just some of the inventive side dishes on offer. The Komatsuna, or Japanese Pepper Spinach, was served in a simple and delicate Shiso dressing, allowing the fragrant leaves to sing through clear and refresh the palate as we went.
The selection of Sushi and Sashimi on offer at Dashi is a triumph of balance. The selection is small enough to assure the diner that the chefs are able to focus on the quality of their work, whilst the selection on offer is diverse enough to warrant several return visits. Provenance plays a large part in establishing the menu’s credibility, with the exact source of each cut clearly on display. Personal highlights included the Masu Kunsei which championed smoked Atlantic trout superbly, whilst the Tarabagani was a celebration of Alaskan king crab. The cooking of the rice was without fault, and the precision of the preparation left little doubt as to the skill of Hiyakawa’s team.
Maki, from ‘maku’ meaning ‘to roll’, is perhaps one of the most familiar incarnations of Japanese cuisine to the western eye. These distinctive rolls feature plump and perfectly seasoned sushi rice, wrapped in nori and filled with various combinations and delights. The Spicy Salmon Maki delivered a perfect hum of warmth, which was quickly offset by the fresh crunch of Mixed vegetable roll with daikon, carrot & avocado. The Hokkaido Scallop roll with scallion was lovingly adorned with the infinitely fine roe of the Flying Fish and, for me, epitomized the flavors of Japan.
Reflecting over a tumbler of sublimely fruity Nikka Taketsuru whisky, it was clear that Dashi is a hub of supreme order, harmony and balance. Every ingredient has its place and purpose on a dish, and every dish contributes something different to the diner’s experience. A place where less truly can be more, and where more is somehow never enough. I feel our visit was not a one-off venture into Japanese cuisine, but rather the start of a journey through the country’s vast gastronomic landscape. And our partner in this new adventure? Hiyakawa and his team at Dashi.